When seven Democratic senators voted with all of the Republicans to reject Debo Adegbile's nomination to serve as head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, Sen. Harry Reid cried racism. It's as if Reid was on autopilot, and the aide who usually touches his elbow to correct him wasn't available. If the aide had been there, he would have whispered, "Um, Senator, you're accusing your own side of racism."
Adegbile had been rejected, the majority leader explained, because "he stood for civil rights," and "Republicans have done everything they can, for a number of years now, to stop people from voting."
So welcome to the club, Sens. Chris Coons, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Robert Casey, John Walsh, Joe Donnelly and Mark Pryor. By disagreeing with Reid, you're all honorary racists, which is the same thing as being a Republican, according to the Democratic defamation machine.
It's almost funny, this reflexive character assassination by the left. Republicans have grown so accustomed to it that they tend to shrug it off.
When autoworkers at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant voted against joining the United Auto Workers, an analyst on MSNBC explained to viewers that it was racist. "The opposition, I gather, portrayed this as a kind of Northern invasion, a refighting of the Civil War. Apparently there are not a lot of black employees in this particular plant, and so that kind of -- waving the Confederate flag -- was an effective strategy," said Timothy Noah.
Isn't it odd, then, that in the days preceding the vote, this "refighting of the Civil War" didn't make it into news coverage, including on MSNBC? A round-table discussion on that network before the vote featuring Eugene Robinson, Howard Dean, Chuck Todd, Harold Ford and Joe Scarborough, among others, didn't mention race at all. Only afterwards was the hoary old racist libel trotted out.
"Racist" has become the synonym for "conservative" among liberals. The Tea Party, a spontaneous eruption of disgust with Washington's big-spending, bailout-doling ways, was dubbed "racist" by Democrats from the outset. When the movement failed to provide the necessary evidence of its racist motivations, lies were concocted. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus paraded through an anti-Obamacare demonstration on the way to vote for the measure so that they could later claim that they had been called the N-word. Alas for the slander, lots of participants recorded the entire melodrama, and no racial slur was to be found on the tapes.
In 2008, liberal journalists who chatted together on a site called "JournoList" plotted strategies to deflect criticism of Obama's relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright: Pick one of Obama's conservative critics, Spencer Ackerman wrote, "Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists."
Republicans are wrong to ignore the smears. For every one person who is repelled by the false and libelous accusation, there are probably two others who think that where there's smoke, there's fire. A failure to demonstrate outrage at the accusation might be taken as evidence of guilt.
The senators who voted against Adegbile, Democrat and Republican, were not voting against him because of his race. They disagreed with him. It's obviously impossible for Democrats to acknowledge honest differences. That's why they wind up even calling their fellow Democrats racists when things go against them. They don't know how to frame arguments free of personal smears. They don't know how to evaluate policy choices without reference to evil motives by their opponents.
Every senator wrongly tarred by Reid should demand an apology. Republican leaders should demand that Democrats distance themselves from Reid's slander, or explain why they refuse.
There is still some real racism in America. It is found among all racial groups, but is no less ugly for that. The false accusation of racism is just as despicable. Republicans have let Democrats get away with slander for too long.MONA CHAREN, a Washington Examiner columnist, is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate.